#transformHR day 2 - Fran Melmed (@femelmed)

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kicking off the afternoon sessions of Day 2 of the Transform HR conference is "The Second-Generation Workplace Wellness Program" with Fran Melmed, Founder of Context Communication.  Given that wellness affects all employees, its important to not only learn about the continued barriers to effective workplace wellness, but the trends, innovations and successes that mark effective wellness programs.

Melmed asserts there is no better time to be discussing wellness.  Companies that are investing in wellness are seeing eight times more return in terms of employee engagement.  Companies are also offering 23 programs on wellness on average. 88% of all companies cite controlling employee health care costs as the #1 health care priority.  Incentives are being offered for screenings, etc., in an effort to get data to understand why some (many?) employees are not engaging in proper wellness behaviors.

Employees are spending 7.7 hours sitting.  Further, one's day job is extending into the night, which leads to greater stress, depression, etc., as they deal with caregiving.  This is compounded by stress of making ends meet, and not being able to find the time to, or even afford to, see a doctor.

So, how can organizations do wellness better? Melmed argues that there are seven levers that organizations can use to address this question:

  1. Personal - What's in it for me in terms of benefits, communications and career arc?
  2. Social - People are incredibly influenced by their networks.  Networks can influence weight gain or loss, quitting smoking, etc.  Health activists can serve as mentors for those apathetic or disempowered and bring them along.  HR can be the many tentacled group that serves as connectors to the different levels of health within the organization.
  3. Mobile - With a mobile workforce, how is HR helping employees to find the time to take care of others, let along a work/life balance?  Smart phones provide an "ATM of health."  According to Susannah Fox, not only do smart phones allow us to look for health information, but people want to share their health knowledge with others.  
  4. Emotional - Melmed says we are missing the boat here in terms of the connection of mind and body  For many employees, some health needs are hidden.  
  5. Financial - Money is a huge stressor for individuals; wellness is linked to compensation.  Can we tie financial to employee health and wellbeing?
  6. Environmental - Need to ferret out where we are inconsistent - offer sundaes in the cafeteria, but healthy items in the vending machine.  Can we put red, yellow, green stickers regarding the level of "healthiness" of the items offered at the cafeteria and in vending machines?  Should the "prestigious" parking spot that is awarded to the employee of the month be farther away?  What can we do to make the environment "fun" to climb the stairs?
  7. Political - How can employers use their leverage to influence federal, state, and local policies?
Wellness, in the end, has an impact on the bottom line and has a transformative effect on the workplace.

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